The Last Day of Vacation

The last day of vacation is always the saddest.

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My hubby has been home for the past week, and it has been absolutely glorious.  Granted, I was gone for four of his seven days off (at my best friend’s wedding out of town), but the three days we’ve had together at home have been wonderful.

We’ve spent a lot of time accomplishing random things on our to-do lists, like selling my old single girl car that we never got rid of after buying a minivan; hanging curtain rods in Ruthie’s room after discovering with terror that post daylight savings time meant broad daylight during her bedtime; storing outgrown baby gear in the crawl space under our house and hauling out the spring goodies; getting some car repairs done; going to all of our dentist and doctor’s appointments.

Today we finished all of our major to-dos and decided to go for a walk to the ice cream parlor across the street for a reward.  We situated Ruthie in her stroller, donned hats and t-shirts, and walked over to the Mountaineer Ice Cream Shop.

Of course, because this is West Virginia, the shop also sells guns, fishing gear, and assorted home decor items.  But we weren’t there for any of that–we were after one of the over 100 flavors of ice cream offered.

Because I couldn’t decide, I got a half and half of strawberry and cookie dough chip, and we wandered out onto the porch of the store to enjoy.  We sat in a rocking double Adirondack chair, Jon holding Ruthie and me holding the ice cream.  I took turns feeding everyone bites–Jon liked the cookie dough chip while Ruthie preferred strawberry.  We watched the cars go by, customers come in and out, people walking their dogs, all with the mountains in the background.

Of course, by the time we got home, it was way past dinnertime and the day had flown by.  I threw together a quick fish dinner, which turned out to be accidentally super delicious, we got the baby in bed, and now we’re finishing a last episode of our show on Netflix before vacation officially comes to an end.

It will be super painful to set our alarms for the first time in a week, I am sure.

The last day of vacation is the worst…but I’m already looking forward to his next week off in June.  The anticipation will just have to hold us over until next time!

Books That Take Forever to Read

I love reading, and I love finishing books. I generally read at least a hundred books a year, and generally, I read several books at a time and finish each one within a few days. A week max. 

But this year has been weird–there are several books that have taken me months to read, like Ava Dellaria’s Love Letters to the Dead, which I started at Christmas and just now finished, or Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, which I started in November and am still working on. 

Normally I abandon books if I don’t finish them quickly, but I really want to read these books and it’s just taking me forever. 

That’s sort of how my whole life has been since having a baby–I have goals and things to do that used to take me a few days but now require weeks or months. I don’t want to abandon things, but they take me forever. Some things I know have a deadline I’ve just had to postpone for a few years–like finishing my PhD. 

I know that the balance of my life will resume when Ruthie gets a little older, but for now it’s strange to reflect and see how much motherhood has impacted lifelong habits like my reading. 

Decisions I Didn’t Think Through

I realize it’s pretty early in the day, but here are some hastily-made decisions I’m already kicking myself for:

  • Not packing last night for the 4-day trip I’m leaving for at noon
  • Not folding the laundry I washed for said trip
  • Not doing the dishes last night before bed, so that I had to do them first thing this morning before I could make any coffee
  • Bringing my daughter to bed with me last night because I was so tired when she woke up at 2 am
  • Not being able to pack, now, until baby wakes up
  • Not being able to shower until baby wakes up 
  • Settling down in the one spot I know doesn’t get Wifi in our house and getting too comfortable to get up
  • Having my least social cat, Lizzie, get too comfortable on my lap in same spot, thus pinning me to the wifi dead zone 
  • Letting Lizzie snooze instead of dislodging her so I can reach my now-cold coffee
  • Forgetting to turn my 4:45 am alarm off so now I’m stranded, awake, outside any sort of space in which I can be productive, for at LEAST another hour. 

I’m with Rachel–I just shouldn’t be allowed to make decisions. 

Happy Thursday!

Binge Watching Cooking Shows

My friends think I’m weird for many reasons, but one of the major reasons is that I don’t have a television in my home.

I don’t mind being weird–my friend Lisa calls this “adorkable”–but people seem really confused when they come over for the first time, get the grand tour, and see eight bookshelves but no TV.

(I’m not exaggerating on the bookshelves.)

I do enjoy TV to help keep me company when I’m doing some other task, so I subscribe to Netflix and marathon various shows while cooking, doing laundry, or packing for a trip like I am right now.

Because I’m always multitasking while watching TV, I don’t really like shows with plots I have to follow, or dialogue that requires a lot of deep analysis.  So it makes sense that I am drawn to reality TV, but given that I enjoy plots and deep analysis in general, I can’t really handle The Real Housewives of Atlanta.

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Which brings me to cooking shows.

Ina Garten, Alton Brown, Rachael Ray, Emeril Lagasse, Julia Child, Gordon Ramsay, Giada de Laurentiis–oh, how I love you all.  I’ve had several cooking shows I’ve been addicted to over the years, and I can watch them for hours on end.  Whether it’s a how-to-cook style of show or a competition, I am never bored by this genre.  Maybe it’s that I feel like I’m always learning from cooking shows, or maybe it’s that I can immediately apply whatever recipe has been made during the episode.

Either way, my evening of doing laundry and packing for my trip was made much more enjoyable by watching three episodes in a row of The Great British Baking Show (especially Paul Hollywood’s blue eyes, which remind me of Paul Newman’s blue eyes, swoon!).

And now, I will finish watching this thrilling competition centering around baking meat pies, and pray that my daughter sleeps through the night tonight.  Woohoo!

Dear Construction Workers

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Dear Construction Workers,

I really appreciate that you are building a three-story apartment monstrosity that directly blocks my spectacular view of the mountains.  Really, I do.  I appreciate that you arrive at this site every morning at 6:30 am in your loud diesel trucks, ready to yell your morning salutations to one another at top volume.  I really do enjoy this–especially when your hollering wakes my daughter up an hour and a half early.  It is so nice to hear her screaming somehow overshadow yours in volume, so that I can hear her piercing shrieks while I’m on another floor attempting to brew a cup of coffee.  Very impressive.

I also appreciate that all of your deliveries, especially the ones that require a truck to drive in reverse with loud beeping sounds, or the ones that require a crane to lift the pallets to the top of the new structure and then deafeningly drop the loads on the roof, seem to occur between the hours of 1 and 3 pm.  I know you are just getting all of your materials in order for the next day before you head home around 3:30, and it is so kind of you to schedule those deliveries smack in the middle of my daughter’s nap time.  This efficient timeline has ensured that her once-lengthy afternoon nap has dwindled to a short bit of shuteye, resulting in a perpetually sleep-deprived, cranky baby.

The only time I don’t hear you guys is in the middle of the night, when my daughter wakes up–every night for two weeks in a row now–to eat, because she hasn’t eaten her bedtime bottle, because she’s too tired, because she can’t get a good nap in unless I put her in her carseat and we drive in circles while I listen to an audiobook on my headphones so she can sleep in peace.  (Not that I’ve done that or anything.)  During those 2 am snuggle sessions, I really notice the absence of clanking and hollering and beeping and smashing and hammering and drilling and stapling.  I definitely miss it.

So, construction workers, thanks for all you do.  Really.  Thanks.

Sincerely,

A Really Tired Mom of a Really Tired Baby

 

Book Clubs

Every month, I go to two or three book club meetings, and almost every month, there are only a few of my book club members who have actually read the book.

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This means that I don’t really know what a “real” book club looks like, unless this is what happens in all book clubs.  Still, I want to have–recreationally–the kind of discussions that my students had during Socratic Seminars in my classroom, but with my friends, and wine.

That has yet to happen, but I’m still holding out hope.  Usually, what happens is that the people who’ve read the book have a furtive discussion on themes, symbols, questions, wonders, thrills, all while the people who haven’t read or haven’t finished are shushing us from the corner since they don’t want the ending spoiled.

Just once, I would love for everyone to read the same book, and super nerdily, at that.  I want to see post-it flags and annotations and index cards with favorite quotes and fanfics and memes and movie adaptation criticisms.

This month, my clubs are reading Hillbilly Elegy, The Underground Railroad, and The Year of Magical Thinking.  Perhaps one of those books will be the one that hooks every reader, spurs amazing discussion, and finally results in the book club meeting of my dreams!

Or, perhaps not.

Grading Papers

Sometimes I really enjoy grading papers, if I can get in the right frame of mind.  I have to be very focused, free of outside distractions that might break that tenuous focus, and in a comfortable place.  I also require the perfect beverage, a just-right snack, and good company in the form of a friend or a cat.

Pens–the pens are important too.  Or a strong wifi connection, if I’m grading an electronic assignment.  Also, some music, or noise of some kind, without words but with just sound.

Does that sound too specific?  Like an impossible situation?  You’re right–it is.  I pretty much hate grading.

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But this weekend, I got about 250 papers graded that I’ve been procrastinating for a little while.  I was feeling the pain of looming grade deadlines, had the weekend totally free, and enjoyed my couch as a good place to grade.  My husband made me a fresh cup of coffee with my favorite hazelnut creamer, got us some chips, and settled down beside me to watch Ripper Street on Netflix.  My PaperMate pens were flowing, the stack of graded papers was piling higher, and Jon made it through half of season two before I finally called it a night.

Am I finished grading?  Of course not.  My alarm is set for 4:45 am tomorrow so I can get back at it.

But at least I enjoyed the progress I managed to make today.  🙂

 

Starbucks

I never go to Starbucks without thinking of a quote from one of my favorite movies, You’ve Got Mail:

The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don’t know what the hell they’re doing or who on earth they are, can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino.

Tom Hanks, of course, delivers this line with his signature dry humor, and I can hear his voice in my head every time I stand in line here to order a drink.

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In addition to my associations with movies, Starbucks also always reminds me of when I first began teaching.  I student taught in a school that was a 45-minute drive from my house, and there was a Starbucks near my house I had to pass as I started my morning commute.  I was usually the first customer in the drive-thru line, pulling in at 5:30 sharp and ordering a tall Pike Place, black, every morning.  I’d arrive at school when it was still blissfully dark and quiet, and sip my coffee and get an hour of work done before the middle school students began to thunder in at 7:15.

Now that I teach part-time, I only stop by Starbucks a few times a month, so it feels like a treat to order a $5 latte and bring it with me to class.  Today, I’m in the store, parked in a corner, plugging away at some grading and enjoying a seasonal iced latte, enjoying the hubbub of voices and music and steaming milk that is loud enough to be motivating rather than distracting.

Being here never fails to motivate me to fly through my grading a little faster, inspire a new blog post, or just provide endless entertainment in terms of people watching.  I guess, in Tom Hanks’ words, I do get a defining sense of self by coming to Starbucks:  when I’m here, I am teacher, writer, dreamer.

Thanks, Tom!

Oh, Rick Riordan

I first discovered Rick Riordan when I was in college taking a young adult literature course.  For one of our assessments, we had to choose 10 books and write a letter to their author(s).  Me being the enterprising soul that I am, I decided to read the first few Percy Jackson and the Olympian books, since the first three had been released, so I could write fewer letters.

I fell in love immediately with the son of the sea god, and with Riordan’s hilarious writing.  When I began researching Riordan to do my assignment, I discovered that like several of my favorite authors (Andrew Smith, Stephen King), Riordan was a former English teacher.  Ahh, a man after my own heart!  My assessment wound up being love letters rather than the engaging discourse my professor was probably looking for.

I was quite taken with both Riordan and his books for many years.  (Except the times he crushed my soul with his plot twists and cliffhangers.)

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I have compulsively read almost every other Riordan book since then–the whole Percy Jackson series, the follow-up Heroes of Olympus series, the Egyptian gods series, the Norse mythology series, and now I’m starting the new Trials of Apollo series.

While habitually wasting my time doing stupid stuff while Ruthie napped today, I started poking around on Riordan’s GoodReads page.  I discovered that Riordan has based all of his characters on former students of his, especially the diverse characters he gets so much praise for.

Swoon again!!

After I finished giggling about that, I opened The Hidden Oracle  to the page I’d left off and laughed aloud at Riordan’s signature overblown metaphors (“that man was so square, you could cut yourself on his corners, you know?”), his hilarious modernizations of ancient gods and goddesses (Rhea wearing purple glasses, a peace symbol, and a macrame belt), and his funny characterizations of little-known demigods (Ozzie Osbourne and Joan of Arc, on this page).

It is always so delightful to fall in love with a good book–and its author.  😉